Manchester City and Inter Milan are understood to be the favourites to sign Lionel Messi should he leave Barcelona this summer.
The Argentine superstar stunned European football on Tuesday evening when he confirmed his intention to leave the club after 20 years.
It is the belief of the Messi camp that a clause in his contract that would enable him to leave for free is still able to be triggered by the end of this month.
The club however contend that the clause expired in June and would then direct suitors to the 33-year-old’s buyout clause, a prohibitive €700m.
Any move in a transfer market hugely effected by coronavirus feels contingent on Messi and his team winning out or Barcelona significantly dropping their asking price.
City and their former Barca directors Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain have long hoped to attract Messi to the club but never considered the opportunity would so readily present itself.
It is understood Pep Guardiola, who won two Champions League crowns and four La Liga titles alongside Messi at the Nou Camp, has been in contact with his former player in recent weeks.
Inter are also investigating a way in which they too can do a deal, although the vast cost – Messi’s yearly salary stretches to £90m – make any agreement difficult to reach.
They are, however, understood to be looking into investment which could make a move possible with a player of Messi’s calibre seen as too good an opportunity to pass up.
Messi has also spoken to MLS side Inter Miami, although any move across the pond would come later in his career, with a desire to win the Champions League again paramount in any decision around his next club.
The La Liga giants remain insistent they want to build the new-look team around Messi.
Speaking at the official unveiling of new signing Francisco Trincao on Wednesday, new sporting director Ramon Planes said: “This is evidently the important news.
“As we’ve said many times, as [new head coach Ronald] Koeman and the president have said and my position as technical secretary, we count on Messi for the future, just as we count on Trincao as a talent of the future, and we have heard that he will play alongside the greatest player in the history, the greatest player in the world.
“These things happen and we hope we will come back stronger from the defeat at the end of last season.
“What’s happened has happened and our idea is to build a team around the most important player in the world.”
Source: The independent